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Balling wire with a TIG


This is a question about suggestions for a cheaper TIG welder setup that would be exclusively used to ball the ends of wire.

I am a student at Pratt Institute going into my Thesis year. I am not sure how much studio access I will have with the continuing pandemic, and so I’d like to be proactive with the techniques I chose. Rather than illegally having a torch in my apartment, I’d like to use a system of bolting to create 3d forms. I will would like to be able to ball gold and silver wire near anodized aluminum and titanium, and I can’t use heat to do that. I’ve used Pratt’s TIG welder to do this before, but can’t afford something that expensive myself. Does anyone have experience with something like this? I have seen things like the pulse sparkle spot welder, would that work? Will I need something with argon gas to prevent the area from oxidizing? Ideally balling the wire would be the very last step. I’d like to spend max a thousand (with the idea of reselling afterwards). I also saw the orion m pulse which is more than I’d like to spend but if anyone has any experience with it or any leads on a used one I’d love to hear about it! I’d appreciate any suggestions you all have!

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In NYC you can use a torch with the 1lb. tanks in an apartment. The oxygen gets rather pricey that way but you could save up for an oxygen concentrator, which is also within code.
You just need to check your lease to make sure the landlord hasn’t put in a clause that would prevent you from using a torch.

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@Elliot_Nesterman thanks for your response! Part of my reason for avoiding all that is the whole fume hood thing, its a tiny studio, I’m asthmatic, and I would need to keep it as clean as possible. If I were to use a torch I would be most interested in a mini torch. Do you know anything about the legality of acetylene tanks?

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For a cleaner flame and something allowable, look into a water torch. Basically they electrically break water into hydrogen and oxygen which burns cleanly. The flame is small, which might be a good fit for what you want to do.

A flux is added to the water so there might be a small amount of fumes depending on the type of flux used, but you can use different fluxes. You’d have to ask, but an ethyl alcohol (vodka?!) flux might burn cleanly. :slightly_smiling_face:

The flux adds some color to the otherwise invisible flame and moderates the flame temperature.

Neil A

Acetylene burns dirty. It is hotter than propane, but for jewelry work unnecessary. Stick to propane and O2 in the 1lb. bottles. Smith’s Little Torch will do most everything you need.
As to fumes, most jewelry fluxes don’t give off much. Of course that depends on how many hours a day you’re soldering. Make sure that your solders don’t have any cadmium, though these days very few do as it’s being phased out of most art supplies. If you work with plain borax and water flux fumes won’t be a problem at all.
Have a look at some of the youtube videos of Bobby White. He uses borax and water ground on a slate, very traditional, and with that he does excellent work.

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@CelineDussaud, Thank you. I’m so glad you asked this question! I’m in the city as well, and I’ve been trying to decide between a small butane torch and the Smith torch for my tiny apartment set-up. I’m so glad others weighed in, and @Elliot_Nesterman, good to know what’s generally allowable in apartments (though I’ll check with my specific space to make sure).

If asthmatic, consider the fact that a TIG creates some toxic fumes. May be you should consider buying a PUK (I just love my PUK 04) and sell it back. These soldering machines are selling like cupcakes. You can purchase a fume extractor from Lampert. Argon gaz is not cheap either but a TIG will do the trick at 5K$ for the rest of your carreer. All in all, your best bet would be a Little Torch Oxy/Prop 1lb kit, combine to a small domestic fume extractor.

Hi Celine, I’ve seen some Chinese made inverters on EBay for less than $100. You will not need more than 15 amps to ball gold. Maybe 50 amps for silver. You will need gas T (tungsten) I (inert) G (gas “argon”). Drill a hole in your ground plate that the wire can be dropped in. Use a ball burr the size of the ball you want to create half way into the hole drilled. Place the wire in the hole leaving enough sticking up to create the ball. Weld straight down on the wire to for the ball. Then pull the wire out. Then cut to necessary length. When balling up the other end, just make sure the wire is grounded. If your joining two metal parts with your fastener, the parts will probably create enough of a ground to be able to ball up your fastener wire. Keep your arc short, like .5 mm. I hope this is helpful. Kevin

I have a PUK 5.1 that, among many other tasks, I use to ball the ends of silver ear wires. It works well on 20 gauge wire, but I have never tried it on heavier gauges. Take a look at Jeff Herman’s website to see what a PUK will do…Rob